Friday, December 21, 2012

Seoul, ROK Recap

Sunrise in Seoul, view from our room
I'm baaaa-aaack!

Actually, I've been back for over a week. But it's taken me up until the last few days to fully re-adjust to the time difference (14 hours, yikes!) and honestly, I just lost all motivation to blog.

So, how was it?

Seoul, was not at all what I expected and much, much more.

1. It's freakishly cold. Seriously. I come from Ohio, land of lake effect snow, negative wind chills and frozen everythings. But nothing could prepare me (or anyone) for this kind of cold. Really, you haven't felt cold to you've been to South Korea in the winter. To be fair, they are having their coldest winter in a decade.

My fingers didn't just turn blue, they turned black

We got about 6 in. of snow there. And oh yeah, they don't plow or shovel

2. Nobody speaks English. Ok, not completely true. They know hello and thank you, but very few can string sentences together. This makes it really hard to get any point across. Say, when trying to ask how to get somewhere, or when your subway ticket doesn't work but your Turtle is already on the other side of the turnstiles.

Eventually we got the hang of the evil subway turnstiles

3. I should never ever be permitted to sing in public. Even after a bit of soju and beer, I was still perfectly aware of how awful I sounded.

But still might have sounded better than Britney
4. Korean food is.....interesting. And so horribly bad for you. They eat kimchi and rice breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus, they like super fatty cuts of pork. For someone who finds skin to peel off of skinless chicken breasts, this was a nightmare. Luckily, they also had super yummy waffle and pancake-like pastries. For some reason, eating bad doesn't bother me when it's sugar-filled!

Typical appetizer

Yummy nutty pancake from street vendor

5. Don't expect to shop much. Well, expect to shop, as there isn't too much else to do when it's 0 degrees, but don't expect to buy anything. The markets sell dirty, cheap knock offs that look like something you could buy at any old garage sale in the U.S., and the department stores are extremely $$$. A box of Kashi granola bars was $12. The same box is $2.98 at Target in the U.S.

Junky market

Super pricey, high-end Shinsegae department store

6. They glare. See, here I was all prepared to get stared at, but I was not prepared that these stares would be accompanied by furrowed brows and animosity. And being the only blond I saw the entire 12 days, and the only bright red coat in a sea of black...Well, I just threw my hands up after day 1 and said "Glare away!"

7. Their definition of exercise is vastly different from ours. I was the only one sweating in that gym! Everyone else was slowly strolling on their treadmills and then getting jiggled by those old-fashioned "fat-melting" machines. Picture me dripping sweat onto the carpet while these perfectly cool middle-aged Koreans are casually getting jiggled in their crisply starched work out clothes. Yeah, it was a sight to see. And their track? A perfect circle that was maybe 20 laps for a mile if I'm being generous. I stuck to the eliptical, which was immensly harder than our elipticals here.

Yeah, that's going to do a lot

8. There history isn't exactly accurate. While touring some palaces and museums with a Korean American friend who is studying Korean in Seoul, we learned that their record keeping wasn't exactly up to par. For instance, they'd unearth an ancient relic, but wouldn't be sure what it was so they'd make something up for the museum to put as a description.

Gyeongbok Palace

Ok, so my review sounds pretty Debbie Downer, huh? In actuality, I am so glad I went. It was a different experience from what I expected, for sure, but I did have a good time and saw things I'd never get to see otherwise. The nights that the Koreans took us out to do karaoke, dinner and see the sights were so much fun! Heck, even playing cards up in the hotel lounge at night was a blast. But, we were definitely ready to come home.

Now, that I'm recouped, it's time for the holidays! Hurray! Then, it'll be back to the drawing board...or canvas!

Merry Christmas everyone!